Tire Buying Guide

Tread Patterns & Components

Tread Patterns & Components

Learning more about the various features of a tire’s construction can help you determine the perfect fit for your specific vehicle, driving style and surroundings.

Learning more about the various features of a tire’s construction can help you determine the perfect fit for you.

Tread patterns rack

Understanding tread patterns and why they matter

The specific tread pattern can determine how a tire grips, handles and wears in various conditions. Picking a tire with the pattern best suited for your vehicle and driving style is key to peak performance. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Symmetrical Tread Pattern
    Symmetrical Pattern

    Here, the inner and outer sides of the tread are mirror images of one another. Because of this, tires with this type of pattern can be mounted to rotate in any direction without affecting performance. You’ll find this pattern commonly used on many passenger tires.

  • Asymmetrical Tread Pattern
    Asymmetrical Pattern

    This pattern is also found on passenger tires, but the channels and tread blocks are configured differently on the inner and outer halves. A design like this is utilized to offer better water dispersement, increased grip in dry conditions and improved traction in snow. Multiple rotation patterns can be used for these tires.

  • Directional Tread Pattern
    Directional Pattern

    These tread patterns are designed to only roll in one direction. You’ll find them on more high-performance and winter tires. The common V-shaped pattern helps increase resistance to hydroplaning by efficiently moving water away from the contact patch. Because of the specific directional design, tires with this type of pattern can only be rotated using a front-to-back and back-to-front pattern.

  • Directional Asymmetrical Tread Pattern
    Asymmetrical | Directional Pattern

    For the best of both worlds, these patterns combine V-shaped grooves that are offset from the centerline of the tire for even better performance in wet conditions. As far as rotation goes, they should be treated as directional tires. If there are different tire sizes for the front and rear, they are location-specific, meaning they can’t be rotated to any other position on the vehicle.

Exploring tire components Exploring tire components

Understanding why a certain tire and tread may be right for you is much easier when you know the names and functions of the parts that determine performance.

Contact Patch

Tread area

Also called the tire footprint, the contact patch is the area of the tire that’s connected to the driving surface at any given moment. Air pressure and vehicle load greatly affect the contact patch and how the tire performs.


This is where the tread and sidewall meet. There might even be blocks here for even more traction, depending on the tire design.



These deep channels can run laterally across the tread or circumferentially around the tire. They’re simply the area between two adjacent tread ribs. Grooves help water escape from the contact patch more effectively.


These small slits in the tread block help create additional surface area of the tread. This increases the tire’s grip in icy, snowy and wet conditions. The sipes open up when they make contact with the road, taking in water/snow.



Ribs are formed by the width and depth of the grooves that run around the circumference of the tire. They’re there to help create traction in wet or dry conditions and form the configuration of the area that makes contact with the driving surface.

Tread block

Raised rubber segments that make contact with the road surface. Cross slots are channels molded into tread elements to provide extra water evacuation. Finally, sipes are the small slits molded into the tread blocks that increase the number of biting edges to enhance all-season traction.


Frequently asked questions

  • Michelin Winter tire
    Do I need winter tires?

    In warmer, drier climates, you may not need to worry about winter traction. But in colder climates where the temperature often drops below 45 degrees, you may want to consider two sets of tires. Having a set of winter tires will provide noticeable advantages in these conditions, even when compared to the best all-season tires.

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    Understanding the differences between tire types

    All season, winter, all-terrian? Knowing and understanding the differences between tire types can help you choose the right set of tires.

  • Tire pointing
    Where can I find my tire size?

    The tire size for your vehicle can be found in two places:

    1. The sidewall of your tire

    2. Generally, a sticker is located inside of the driver's side door frame

    We always recommend consulting your vehicle owner's manual.

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